Kaneland falls short against Sycamore
Sycamore's Tommy Townsend entered the game to pitch with one on and one out and with a 1-run lead against Kaneland, and the Spartans' reliever allowed two runners to reach, including one on his own error.
But Townsend induced a pop up to end the inning, then escaped a jam in the sixth and retired the side in the seventh -- sandwiched around him producing an insurance run for the Spartans -- as Sycamore won the Interstate Eight Conference game 6-4 on Wednesday.
"That definitely could have gone south very, very quick," Townsend said. "But our fielders, we put together a good one, and I was trying to throw some strikes coming out of the bullpen on a really cold day. It was good to get out of that inning."
Sycamore (12-4, 8-1) scored four in the top of the fifth to take a 5-3 lead over the Knights (11-6, 5-4). The Knights committed three errors in the inning leading to one of the runs against Logan Kottmeyer being unearned.
Townsend had an RBI single in the inning and came around to score on a throwing error. Kiefer Tarnoki and Owen Piazza each singled and scored in the inning, and Ethan Storm, the starter for the Spartans, drove in a run on a sacrifice fly.
"We had them on the ropes early, made a couple big mistakes back-to-back, and they took advantage of it," Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. "We gave up one big inning. I thought we would respond, and unfortunately we didn't."
Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said it was the first time this season the Spartans really were able to come from behind for a win. After Townsend singled and scored on a Jimmy Amptmann single in the first, Kaneland put up three runs in the bottom of the second.
Johnny Spalasso homered to start the inning, then a combination of walks, errors and an RBI single by Dylan Conklin led to the Knights scoring two more runs.
Cavanaugh said it was a decent performance by Storm (5 2/3 innings, 4 R, 2 ER, 4 hits, 5 BB and 10 K) but also not what the Spartans are used to from their ace.
"It usually starts with our starting pitching, and today Ethan Storm struggled a little bit," Cavanaugh said. "I would consider 5 2/3 and four runs a pretty good outing for most pitchers, but that's just not what we're used to seeing. He had a little trouble today with his strike zone jumping around on him and a little more trouble locating than what we've seen so far."
Kaneland was down 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth when Conklin doubled with two outs. Parker Violett followed with a seeing-eye single up the middle, which Ethan Steele coraled behind the bag. Aversa waved Conklin home but Steele's throw was in plenty of time to get the out and end the rally.
"I made a big baserunning mistake myself over at third trying to be aggressive, and they made the play," Aversa said. "A couple of times we had runners on and couldn't get them in like we were earlier in the game. We didn't sit back this game. This was different. They handled us better later in the game, and we've got another one Friday."
Conklin and Spallasso each were 2 for 4 for the Knights. Joey Puelo was 2 for 4 for the Spartans and Townsend finished 4 for 4 with three runs scored and an RBI.
Sycamore added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Townsend doubled, advanced on a pop out then scored on a wild pitch with two outs.
Cavanaugh said a 2-run lead in the seventh is more than twice as good as a one-run lead, and Townsend agreed. He got the Knights in order in the bottom of the inning, including notching his first strikeout of the game.
"I found a gap, [and that] managed to be a big run for us," Townsend said. "That's all we needed. That gives me a lot more confidence going back out there in the seventh inning."